FRB: How did you get into climbing Matt?
Matt: Well, I had been bike racing
for several years and finally got burned out. A good friend of mine,
Dave Pelletier, took me to Pawtuckaway in southern New Hampshire for
the first time. It was all over after that. All I wanted to do was pull
FRB: Who were some of your early mentors?
Matt: Charlie Bentley had to
be my first real mentor. We were both at the University of New Hampshire
at the time, along with other guys like Dean Potter. Charlie belayed
me on my first 5.10 lead, which was one of the best moments of my life
to that time. I also used to follow him around on some of his bouldering
circuits at Pawtuckaway, and I couldn’t believe someone could hold on
to stuff that small. Other than Charlie, Jim Schimberg, a guide and
climber in Plymouth, NH, was a great friend and mentor.
FRB: Who were some of your early climbing partners?
Well, Charlie for a bit, Dave Pelletier, Dave Mackey, and the standard
East Coast crew. Then I moved to Breckenridge, CO and hooked up with
some of the best climbing partners of my life, only because they always
had so much fun. Earl, Chad & Turkey Dave. When I opened the Breck Rock
Gym, I climbed with Lance Hadfield and John Soar a lot. Those were special
partners because we developed a lot of the rock around Summit County
and Independence Pass together. A good man named John Jacobs as well.
FRB: Who do you climb with usually?
Matt: I have to admit, 80%
of the time I climb by myself. As social as I am, climbing is a lot
about me and my space; chilling out. But I do get psyched about the
group, and climb a lot with Mike Moelter, Xander Oxman, John Stack,
Pat Adams, Ian Powell, the Boulder Rock Crew. They have great attitudes
and all climb way harder than I do, which is motivating. Pat says something
funny every once in a while, which keeps things all good.
FRB: How many years have you been climbing Matty?
Matt: About 14 years now. Good
Lord. Wasn’t thinking about any college reunions until just then. Maybe
I should pick up a cane.
FRB: What changes would you like to see
in the climbing
Matt: That’s a tricky question.
There is a natural progression to every sport, some of it is good, some
of it can be bad if the roots are ignored or lost. Mostly more climber
involvement in the protection of the natural resource, either through
time, money or practice, especially joining the Access Fund. Everyone
has their own way of contributing to the community, and I hope they
take that opportunity. I would like to see growth in the professional
aspect of the sport, so that top climbers can make a living through
what they do, and that climbing venues can hold successful events. Of
course, this growth would mean more climbers and more impact, but in
reality, we are such a small community that we can make it work.
FRB: What else do you like to do besides climb?
Matt: Well, being an ex-bike
racer, and being married to the best set of legs on the Front Range,
I ride a lot. I listen to a lot of jazz, play my bass, go fly-fishing.
Living in Breck for so long gave me these telemark legs, so I might
as well use them on the hill as much as I can, seeing as they don't
help me boulder any harder.
FRB: What are some of your favorite moments
in your climbing
Matt: Well, for sure that first
5.10, Peer Pressure (Rumney), lead with Charlie. In New Hampshire in
1989 that still seemed really hard, and it was a big milestone. Definitely
climbing the Naked Edge in '92 with Frank Jordan, a friend from Germany.
I had read so much about it, looked at it in mags for years, that to
be on it was amazing…then to redpoint each pitch…that was special. But
it seems like the best moments have been watching partners do their
projects. I've always seemed to get more psyched for my partners doing
their projects than for me doing mine…which makes just about every day
really good. Doing Super Chief out at Carter FINALLY was pretty damn
cool. I had never really tried that hard.
FRB: Have you done any first ascents?
Matt: Sure, I think. Some stuff
at Pawtuckaway that was hard for the time and scary. Dean Potter was
setting standards even then, and since we didn't bolt stuff, and mostly
it was face climbing there, he would get really psyched, maybe do something
on TR, then fire it with one or two bad pieces in 45 feet. We got caught
up in that, and I think some of the 11+ R and X stuff I did were first
ascents on lead. Plenty in Summit County and Independence Pass, where
friends and I developed the good sport climbing across from Keystone
ski area and Monitor Rock, on the Twin Lakes side of the Pass. I'm proud
of the Monitor. It's one of the best areas in the state for well-protected
sport routes up through 12b, and the setting is spectacular. I like
going up there and seeing a lot of people enjoying those routes, makes
me feel like I gave something of quality to the community. Some FA's
on the boulders in those areas as well.
FRB: Do you have any 'heroes' in climbing?
Matt: Absolutely. Patrick Edlinger
made me respect movement more than any aspect of climbing, which is
why now I enjoy bouldering the most. Charlie Bentley for actually showing
me that this STUFF WAS POSSIBLE… But now, mostly Moelter and Xander
because they can climb as hard as they do and just stay grounded. I
love watching those guys do hard stuff because it kind of matters, but
not as much as going out that night with the boys… they keep it fun
and enjoy it for what it is.
do you think of enhancing, chipping
and gluing holds?
Matt: Wow…my first reaction
is that I'm not into any of it. Then again, I have climbed routes that
have been glued, drilled, etc., and really enjoyed them, which makes
me guilty by action. I remember we dug about a 1/2 ton of dirt away
from the Onion Roll boulder up in Summit County because we were desperate
for quality problems. We always justified it by saying the boulder was
in a clear cut, and that the problems were really good. I still climb
on that boulder now and enjoy it. So what can I say? Obviously things
are being climbed now that seemed impossible, so doctoring stuff can
rob the next generation. As for repairing classic problems, if it's
done well, I wouldn't argue against it. The way I see it, owning and
running a gym, come create the perfect problem here, or get stronger
here and do that problem you are staring at, dreaming about. That's
what indoor climbing is largely about. Then, promote and support the
Access Fund's Bouldering Campaign. That is the best action we can take.
FRB: Who do you think makes the best shoes
Matt: I have always worn La
Sportiva, because they fit me perfectly, are impeccably made and
last forever. It's only a bonus that they are local and wearing them
helps support a local company and local climbers. Not to mention they
have always supported events at the BRC.
FRB: What are some of your favorite climbing gyms?
Matt: Without a doubt the Boulder
Rock Club. It's the third I've been very involved in, and by far
the best. We have a great staff, and host an amazing climbing community.
Every business owner should have our clientele. They are concerned,
invested, and picky, which only keeps us on our toes and helps us improve,
and they reward us for that. Plus, all my friends are here. Every time
I come here I'm laughing. It's the best job in the world. After the
BRC, I would have to say In Climb in Bend, Oregon, and the Front in
Salt Lake City. In Climb has great bouldering and is run by two of the
finest people in the industry, Larry and Leah Bromwell. The Front just
raised the bar. I wish every gym could look like that place, including
ours. Beautiful to climb in AND hang out in. Then there's my garage.
FRB: What makes for a good competition routes?
Matt: Have Mike Moelter and
Scott Mechler set the routes, or Jimmy, Justen, Eli and Terry set the
routes. These guys are the best at what they do - making indoor climbing
fun. It takes a lot of work, setting a good comp. The routes must have
an ascending order of difficulty to build excitement, they can't have
stopper party trick moves, they can't be height dependent, they can't
hurt, they need to spread the field based on talent, and for bouldering,
they must be safe to a large degree. All this requires a lot of skill,
time, and patience, not to mention a good working knowledge of competitor's
FRB: Where are some of your favorite places
Matt: Right now Carter Lake
would have to be my favorite place. I live out that way, and a couple
times a week I go out there by myself and just do my circuit alone.
I love the setting and the stone, and the movement of so many of the
problems. Even in the middle of the summer it's nice out there at 5
am, so I get out there and then come to work. I still love climbing
in the mountains. I go up to Summit County a lot in the summer, and
Red Cliff. That place has some of the best rock I've ever climbed on,
and it reminds me of Rumney and home. I do like Chaos a lot, and some
of the classics in Eldo. I'm not to sure where my rope is right now,
so I'm not to sure about that there taller stuff.
FRB: What hard problems have you sent
in the Front
Matt: Let me rephrase that
to "hard for me." I've done Super Chief out at Carter from the low start,
which was a major effort for me. I've done almost all the classics there
through V7. I've done some harder stuff in Chaos, like Tommy's Arete.
I also did Via The Hot One up in Frisco after some work, which I was
really psyched about. I'm mostly about doing lots of problems. I like
huge circuits, with lots of V5 and V6. I like to do 25 - 35 problems
in a day, so working on something really difficult is hard for me to
get motivated for.
FRB: What are some things you don't like about
the Front Range
Matt: Don't like? Man, not
much at all. I guess I'm in the thick of it all the time, between work
and play, and I generally enjoy it the whole time. Sure, people take
it seriously, but I do as well, and I don't have issues with intensity.
Hell, people complain about our BCS events at the gym, and I could get
all worked up about it, but they are here competing, and if they complain,
it's usually because they want to make this stuff better. I'm psyched
that people are vocal and opinionated. It helps us get things done,
move in the right direction. Flag tears up my fingers, but I can't think
of much else.
FRB: What direction do you see bouldering going?
would you like to see it go?
Matt: I think it will become
more popular, and I do believe it will become the aspect of rock climbing
that allows the sport to break into the mainstream press and sports
coverage. I think due to the excitement, the quick movement, the intensity,
and even the "big" falls, bouldering, and more specifically bouldering
competitions, could break the sport out of its past, which has seen
limited coverage and press outside of the industry. I would like to
see the sport go this way. I would like to see committed, gifted athletes
make a living at what they do. I would like to see the venues be able
to hold comps that are a success financially b/c there are corporate
sponsors excited about the sport. I do, however, think the soul of the
sport will always remain what it is - someone outside, by themselves,
unlocking moves in a way that makes them smile. That will never change.
FRB: Bouldering is popular right now. What prompted it?
Why is it Bouldering?
How long is it gonna stay?
Matt: I think a lot of things
have contributed to the growth. There are a lot of boulders, more so
than quality cliffs, in a lot of areas. It is accessible financially,
in that it requires far less gear, which may account for an explosion
of growth in the 12 - 21 age bracket. It is social, fun, and exciting,
it can be done year-round. I also think, especially around here, the
lack of new roped-route potential has turned a lot of motivated climbers
to the boulders in search of new challenges. Equipment advances have
also widened the sports appeal. No matter how you look at it, people
like pads. I think it will stick around for a long time. Unlike skate
boarding (which a lot of people compare to the bouldering craze), where
parks closed down in the 80's and kids lost their venues, bouldering
is all around, and readily available, if we respect the resource. Sure,
the growth may slow a bit, but it will remain popular. I don't think
you will see the large ups and downs like the skate industry experienced.
FRB: Do you have any projects right now?
Matt: Sure. I need to link
the white X, neon pink, and black routes in my garage. I need to expand
the BRC. I need to cut a funk album. I need to go buy something nice
for the wife. I need to school Zio at hoops. It never ends. But other
than that, I would like to finish off Just Right up at Flag, and this
thing on the Gill Boulder that will be hard for me, but I'll do it,
'cause it speaks to me.
FRB: What do you suggest to people who are just starting
Matt: Keep it fun. Bouldering
/ climbing is a hobby for everyone but a few, and it should be fun.
Start off slow, and if necessary get instruction. The best way to enjoy
the sport is to have the confidence that you are doing it safely. As
for bouldering, go with good spotters, and learn how to spot well. That
makes it fun and safe, so you can think about climbing, not falling.
FRB: Any words of wisdom on how to climb hard?
Matt: Drink a lot of water
and keep the connective tissue strong. That sounds like injury-prevention,
but it is key. Work the antagonistic muscles and to stay healthy and
balanced. For me, when I have climbed my hardest, it has been about
the movement. That is what motivates me. Discover what motivates you
and fine projects that suit that drive. Learn from the attempts. The
key to the puzzle is in falling, not sending.
FRB: Do you ever hit a plateau in your climbing?
How do you overcome
Matt: Sure I have. Usually
rest. Not complete rest, but mental and physical time off from climbing
at my limit. I will often just go do circuits where no problem is harder
than V2. I enjoy climbing to much to stop entirely, but scaling back
helps me recover and reestablish my motivation. I also limit my time
dedicated to climbing, and do the other things I really enjoy.
FRB: What inspires you to train?
Matt: Friends, music, and movement.
Movement mostly. It is why I have a hard time just training through
lifting, for example. Having problems with good, exciting moves gets
me really psyched. I will work on something forever if just doing one
of the cool moves on it feels like success. Also people. Having the
gang get psyched for me always helps. The home-field advantage in a
FRB: Parting words of wisdom?
Matt: Join the Access
Fund. They are our best friend in the long haul. Cheer on your friends
and strangers. Spot. Keep your thumbs in. And smile… smile, smile, smile.
This whole thing ain't much if it isn't fun. Peace.
FRB: .Thanks for the interview Matty
Matt: You're welcome, see you
at the Boulder Rock Club.